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It’s Teacher Appreciation Day, and today our educators deserve more recognition than ever before. It’s been a year since teachers were handed an unprecedented request: educate students in entirely new ways amid the backdrop of a pandemic. In this comic series, NPR illustrates one teacher’s powerful story of dedication through crisis.

Shameem Patel, a second-grade teacher in Dallas, on personal growth and loss — and the skills needed to get through the pandemic.

Read this full article in NPR: ‘Radiating Love And Positivity’ While Teaching In The Pandemic

From contact tracing to diagnosing signs of anxiety in students, school nurses have taken on much more during the pandemic. Now, lawmakers in states like Texas and North Carolina are proposing legislation that requires more districts to employ full-time nurses in schools. This article details school nurses’ integral role in fighting COVID-19 and keeping our school communities safe.

Last September, as Covid-19 vaccine candidates were rapidly advancing, Katherine Park and six of her fellow school nurses in St. Louis County, Mo., envisioned school-based vaccination sites as an extension of the district’s pandemic response plan, which they had been working on for months. They reached out to the local health department, letting it know the district had buildings for use and more than 30 school nurses who could jump in on administering shots.

“Honestly, our health department here was kind of surprised that we even reached out to them,” said Park, who is also the interim director of health services at Parkway Schools, a public school district in western St. Louis County. “It’s almost like they had never really considered they could utilize us.”

Park said that many people don’t realize how much school nurses do to manage student health care on a daily basis, from administering insulin injections to giving seasonal flu vaccinations.

Read this full article in STAT: ‘A wild year’: School nurses greatly expand role with Covid-19 vaccinations, contact tracing

While virtual learning has kept our school communities safe amid the coronavirus crisis, a new study points to the impact that remote instruction takes on students’ and their families’ mental health.

Virtual instruction may pose more risks to the mental health and wellness of children and parents than in-person learning, according to a study published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More support may be needed to deal with the effects of the pandemic.

Parents whose children received virtual instruction or a combination of virtual and in-person instruction were more likely to report increased risk on 11 of 17 indicators of child and parental well-being, according to the new CDC study. The agency’s researchers looked at survey responses from October and November 2020 from 1,290 parents with children ages 5 to 12 years old.

Nearly 25% of parents whose children received virtual instruction or combined instruction reported worsened mental or emotional health in their children, compared to 16% of parents whose children received in-person instruction.

Read this full article in CBS News: CDC Study: Virtual School Can Be Damaging To Children’s Mental Health

The White House recently announced more details around the plan to get students back in classrooms- and school testing programs are a main priority. Here’s what you should know about the “initial investment” meant to help K-8 schools reopen by the end of April.

The White House announced Thursday the administration will host a summit on safely reopening schools and direct $650 million in funding to schools to expand testing in underserved communities.
During his prime time speech Thursday, President Joe Biden noted his announcement last week to vaccinate teachers and school officials by the end of March will help the majority of K-8 schools reopen within his first 100 days in office, or by the end of April.

“This is going to be the number one priority of my new Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona,” Biden said.
The Department of Education will host a national Safe School Reopening Summit this month to provide assistance in implementing the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s strategies for in-person instruction, according to a senior White House official.

Read this full article in USA Today: Joe Biden administration will devote $650 million to help schools expand testing

The vaccine rollout has picked up speed and states across the country are easing COVID-19 restrictions, but when will schools return to in-person learning? Some districts plan to head back to classrooms as early as this Spring, while others predict a sense of normal in the Fall.

The current rate of in-school instruction is continuing to rise as most educators predict their schools will be fully in-person next fall, a new EdWeek Research Center survey shows.

Most of the teachers who took the survey reported that, compared with prior to the pandemic, they are spending more time on review and on addressing basic, essential academic standards; district leaders said that the frequency of COVID-19 testing in schools is inching up; and teachers, principals, and district leaders predict that one surprisingly specific pandemic-era change—enhanced cleaning and ventilation protocols—may be here to stay.

The nationally representative, online questionnaire was administered February 24-26 to 1,196 educators, including 629 teachers, 265 principals, and 302 district leaders. It’s the latest in a series of monthly surveys the EdWeek Research Center has been conducting on the pandemic’s impact on schools and other timely topics.

Read this full article in EdWeek: Most Principals, District Leaders Predict Their Schools Will Be Fully In-Person This Fall

The inauguration of Joe Biden takes place this week. The President-elect recently proposed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package which includes new aid for K-12 and higher education. Here are the details on his approach, which has been called a “rescue plan” aimed at reopening schools.

(Updated 1/14) A new, $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposed by President-elect Joe Biden would dedicate an additional $170 billion for K-12 schools and higher education, as well as spending billions more to prop up the state and local governments that are critical to funding education.

Biden’s announcement comes less that a month since Congress approved a $900 billion Covid relief package that included about $82 billion for education. The December 2020 package provides:

  • $54.3 billion for K-12 schools, largely delivered through Title I funding. That’s about four times what schools received in the CARES Act approved in March.
  • $22.7 billion for higher education with $1.7 billion set aside for minority-serving institutions and close to $1 billion for for-profit colleges
  • $4 billion for governors to spend at their discretion, with $2.7 billion of that for private schools.Biden’s proposal would put another $130 billion toward K-12 schools and $35 billion to support higher education institutions. Another $5 billion would go to governors to use at their discretion for the “hardest hit” K-12, higher education or early education programs. The K-12 dollars would be focused on helping schools reopen, though the allowable uses would be quite broad, A portion would be used challenge grants focused on educational equity.

Read this full article in FutureEd: What Congressional Covid Funding Means for K-12 Schools

As schools grapple with reopening plans across the country, education leaders, teachers unions, and parents clash over what they believe to be the safest path forward. A recent study offers new insights about how school impacts public health.

Since the beginning of this pandemic, experts and educators have feared that open schools would spread the coronavirus further, which is why so many classrooms remain closed. But a new, nationwide study suggests reopening schools may be safer than previously thought, at least in communities where the virus is not already spreading out of control.

The study comes from REACH, the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice, at Tulane University. Up to this point, researchers studying the public health effects of school reopening have focused largely on positivity rates. As in, did the rate of positive coronavirus tests among kids or communities increase after schools reopened?

Read this full article in NPR: Where Is It Safe To Reopen Schools? New Research Offers Answers

During the pandemic, most schools have been tasked with reaching students online.  However, finding way to engage, connect with, and reach students –especially those without reliable internet access or tech devices–has been an extraordinary challenge. Now, educators and local tv stations have teamed up for a creative solution to engage students at home.

Nearly every weekday morning, Valentin Vivar curls up in bed next to his older sister, Araceli, and switches on one of his favorite television shows.

The hourlong program, “Let’s Learn NYC!”, isn’t typical children’s fare. Valentin, 5, watches as educators from New York City public schools teach math and science, sing songs and take viewers on virtual field trips to botanical gardens and dance performances. Araceli, 17, is there to help out.

After the coronavirus pandemic shut down their schools in March, the siblings attended virtual classes from their apartment in Queens on Araceli’s iPhone. Their parents could not afford another device, and their class attendance was sporadic because sometimes both had school at the same time. Valentin, who needed speech therapy, was missing out on conversations with classmates, and he was struggling to pronounce words.

Then a teacher told them about the television program, and Valentin was hooked. He sounded out letters and words and formed strong bonds with the teachers he saw onscreen.

Now, Valentin “wants to read books by himself, and he’s writing new words,” Araceli said. “I really like to see him learn and grow.”

Around the country, educators and local television stations have teamed up to help teachers make their broadcast debuts and engage children who are stuck in the doldrums of distance learning. The idea — in some ways a throwback to the early days of public television — has supplemented online lessons for some families, and serves a more critical role: reaching students who, without reliable internet access or a laptop at home, have been left behind.

Read this full article:

New York Times: Teachers on TV? Schools Try Creative Strategy to Narrow Digital Divide

As we celebrate this unusual holiday season and prepare to welcome a new year, we are finding new, creative ways to virtually connect with our families, friends, and school communities.  The following survey shows that students are asking for more ways to connect with their teachers- and school leaders are listening.

Middle and high school students say that they’re not doing as well in school as they were before the pandemic, and that they want more opportunities for connection with their teachers, according to new research from the National Education Association and the National PTA.

The survey, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research in October, asked 800 public school students ages 13-18 about the academic, emotional, and economic effects of COVID-19 for themselves and their families. Researchers also conducted focus groups with the teenagers.

Read this full article in EdWeek: Students Want More Opportunities to Connect With Teachers During the Pandemic

Over the weekend, the CDC director and FDA gave final approval for emergency use authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine in the US.  As questions surrounding efficacy and distribution arise, some school and public health officials say vaccination requirements may be on the way.

Note: The recent authorization is for people 16 and older. 

…pediatricians and school and public health officials are bracing themselves for and bristling against the onslaught of questioners asking the one thing they don’t want to talk about. At least not yet, anyway.

Will children be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to return to school?

“You hear the questions about whether vaccines should be mandatory or not,” says Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. “That’s not the question to be asking right now.”

“The questions to be asking right now are, ‘Is it effective? Is it going to be free? Is it widely accessible?'” she says. “What we’re not doing right now – regardless of what I personally think – we’re not weighing in on whether a vaccine should be mandatory or not right now because that’s not an appropriate question right now.”

The caveats of “right now,” “yet” and “at this moment” do a lot of heavy lifting in conversations about immunization requirements, and that’s because the answer is complicated and not as straightforward as parents would probably like. Not only does it depend on where families live, as different states have different vaccination requirements for schools, but it also depends on drug companies enrolling more children in their trials in order to amass enough data to show – as most pediatricians and public health experts fully expect – that it’s efficacious and safe in children.

Read this full article in US News: No Vaccine, No School?

Additional Resources about the Pfizer vaccine: